Father and son’s collaboration in Natural Selection

Natural Selection at Towner Art Gallery
Natural Selection at Towner Art Gallery

Natural Selection by the artist Andy Holden and his father, the well-known ornithologist Peter Holden, is coming to the Towner Art Gallery in February .

Exploring the history of birds’ nests and egg collecting through animation, video, sculpture, and music, Natural Selection marks the culmination of a five year collaboration between Holden and his father, now on a national UK tour.

A co-commission with Artangel, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Leeds Art Gallery, Towner is the first regional gallery to show Natural Selection. Reimagined for Towner’s large spaces, and drawing in additional elements by Andy Holden, such as new ‘rook’ paintings, tapestries inspired by John Clare and the land enclosure acts, alongside rarely seen works by Eric Ravilious, the exhibition takes on new meaning in the context of nearby rural Sussex.

Natural Selection originated in Andy’s father’s authority in the fields of natural history and ornithology. Peter worked for the RSPB for 45 years, building the Young Ornithologist Club - which Andy joined as a boy - into the largest wildlife club in the world. Peter also regularly featured as ‘the bird man’ on BBC’s Blue Peter.

Conceived in two parts, the exhibition celebrates an astonishing diversity of natural forms and embraces different ways of looking. The first part – A Natural History of Nest Building – examines birds’ nests, and how and why they exist in such an astonishing variety. In the second part of the exhibition – A Social History of Egg Collecting – an animated crow tells the story of the development of the practice from aristocratic pursuit, to boyhood hobby, and to underground illegality.